Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Preemies Galore... #1

     I've never sat down to write the birth story for any of my 5 children, and I guess that's as good a reason as any to do so.  While each baby has their own individual birth story, each Mother has their own birthing history.  Varying pain levels, lengths of laboring, "war stories", birth methods, and other details lead us down incredibly different paths to arrive at one amazing location: Mother-ville.

     I feel blessed to have experienced pregnancy as a few different people.  Meg came along when I was 22-23 and had NO clue about much of anything... even though I strongly believed otherwise.  The 2nd wasn't too far behind, and at the age of 25, I had Emily.  We were very poor, very unhappy as a couple (on the verge of divorce... our marriage was over shortly after), and very stressed out.  I was a totally different Mom to those two toddlers than I was several years later when Elle came into the world shortly after I turned 31.  I had grown up a LOT in the five years between their births and Motherhood was very different this time around.  3 years later, Abby was born... only to be followed by my son, Lars, just 11 months and 11 days after her birth date. 

     Five children in 11 years time is no award winning feat as many Moms do that (and more) in much shorter time spans...  but it always makes me stop for a moment when I realize how different I was with the birth of each baby. 

    In spite of all the differences, each pregnancy shared one common theme:  BEDREST. 

    I inherited some not-so-wonderful pregnancy genes, and ended up with horrible morning sickness, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia early on each time.  Before I even knew I was pregnant, I was hospitalized for dehydration due to what was believed to be the longest bout of influenza ever had.  Wake up, and throw up.  Have a glass of juice and throw up. 10-12 times a day... throw up.  After a week or longer of this, I ended up in the hospital with an IV for fluids.  Several hours later, and some wonderful nausea meds later, life was looking up a little.  I remember being asked if I could be pregnant and more specifically, remember answering "NO".  As mentioned earlier, I really had NO clue - and being I hadn't been using ANY protection for several months, there really isn't a good reason for that answer.  The nurse was apparently used to dealing with idiots like myself and suggested a test.  Positive.  Huh...  who new?!?!?

    From that day on, most of the time was spent in the bathroom with several nice breaks of hospitalization for Hyperemesis Gravidarium.  Which is a nice way of saying "You're gonna puke your brains out until you can't walk yourself out of the bathroom anymore".  It wasn't pretty. 

    As if that weren't enough, with Meg, it was at about 20 weeks when I was made to drink that horribly sweet fizzy drink they fed us pregnant girls to check for diabetes.  It seemed rather strange to me as they were in a sense saying, "Here, drink this, and if you have a bad reaction, we'll know something's up"...  Something was always up for me, and this time was no different.  They suggested a diet low in carbs yet high in fat.  Since I was still not keeping much of anything down, I took Snickers motto - Packed with peanuts, it really satisfies" - to heart.  Peanuts were very low carb... and I was technically only renting the food for 10-15 minutes at a time before it was being sent back.  

    My doctor (Dr. L)  had a terrible sense of humor and didn't really like me much.  I could tell.  He assigned me a home health nurse to come check on me DAILY from about week 24 and on.  We settled into a nice routine that went something like this:  She'd come over to check on me and I'd end up back in the hospital for a couple days until my blood sugars and blood pressure was better.  I'd go back home, she'd come over the following day, and then we'd rinse, lather & repeat.  

    One very specific memory is of an afternoon somewhere around week 30 when I was laying on a hospital bed out in the hallway near the nurses station as I waited to be taken down for ultrasound #658 (or so it seemed).  Dr. L happened to watch as I sat up to take a drink of my water and I was SCREAMED AT by him to "GET BACK ON YOUR LEFT SIDE NOW!!!!"...   He's lucky that 37 year old me wasn't there that day - and I'm probably lucky he was there... so I figure we're all even for now :) 

    Bouncing in and out of the hospital ended around week 31 when nothing helped to keep my blood pressure down any longer.  Truth be told, I felt better than I had in months.  I was only sick a few times a day by then... and thought I had lots of energy  (turns out that really high blood pressure makes ya jittery and I mistook it for energy!).  It was a few days before Easter that year when they announced that I was "in" for the duration.  Could be a few weeks, could be a couple months... and I wasn't getting out early regardless of how good I was.

    I was crushed.   

    The days were spent in a dark room (light raised my blood pressure) on my left side (right side raised my blood pressure).  I couldn't watch tv (it raised my blood pressure) and visitors were 1 a day for 15 minutes (people raised my blood pressure too).  I could shower every 3rd day... but was allowed to pee freely! 

    Easter passed - and as a gift, Dr. L decided it was time for me to try out Magnesium Sulfate.  Now - for those of you who know this drug, you won't even need to read the following description.  You'll just close your eyes, and say a prayer for all the other women out there suffering from it at this moment!  Mag Sulfate is the DEVIL! (I love The Waterboy!).  This stuff slows you down.  It slows your thinking and your reflexes and your ability to open your eyes.  It gives you a headache that just won't go away, but you really don't care too much because you can't focus on anything for more than 2 seconds at a time.  You're in a grey-zone.  You sleep... you drift in and out.  Food doesn't taste.  Conversation is impossible.  Opening your eyes becomes the biggest chore of the day and when you DO finally open them, it's not very far and not for very long because your head is all fuzzy and swollen-feeling... and it's just not very good.  It's the Roofie of pregnancy - and I there are only a handful of women I'd wish this stuff on! 

    BUT - apparently, Magnesium Sulfate kept that baby cookin' awhile longer and that's what it's there for so THANK GOD for it.  Right? 

    On April 28th, I woke up (as much as I could) to my nurse dragging in the scale.  It was the fun part of my day... seeing how much fatter I had gotten from the day before.  Sometimes I'd race my stretchmarks to see which was getting closest to my boobs... sometimes I'd forget :)  This particular morning, she got all excited when she charted my weight gain:  11 lbs since the morning before.  She got me back in bed immediately, said Dr. L would be right in - and that this baby was likely being born today. 

    I'm sure being so anxious had something to do with the high BP numbers (164/116) - but regardless of why they were high, they were high in spite of all the bedrest and meds.  Dr. L. had me in the OR within a couple hours time. 

    God wanted me to have the full effect of hell (being unwed and pregnant and all), so It took the anesthesiologist 3 pokes to get my spinal done and then I experienced vomiting non-stop on the OR table while my baby was being born.  There is something HUGELY unsettling about being cut wide open and having to throw up and the whole getting a spinal procedure was horrible enough that with my next three deliveries I BEGGED to be put to sleep (and only had that granted once!). 

    The actual surgery wasn't nearly as bad as my imagination had believed it would be.  Before they started cutting me open, they dipped a foam brush into cold water and ran it down my sides from my armpits to my groin.  I couldn't feel much of where they touched which told them it was okay to being.  When a mom has extremely high blood pressure and is having a cesarean done, it's customary to strap the Mom to the operating table (mine was at least 6" wide!!! LOL) - and then tilt them to their left side.  This was convenient when it was time to throw up. 

    After hearing the sound of someone, somewhere sucking up fluids - it dawned on me that they must have already started.  I felt no pain, very little pressure, and within minutes, the whole procedure became boring.  It seemed to take a long time, and I just wanted to be DONE.  God, having heard my prayers, gave me something new to focus on and made me colder and shakier than I had ever been before in my life.  The first heated blanket didn't help nor did the fourth or fifth. 

     Time passed a little more quickly however, and the next thing I knew, I was finally in the recovery room... throwing up in a whole new environment. 

    At 33 weeks, 5 days, Megan Noelle was born weighing 4 lbs 12 oz.  She was breathing on her own, but taken to the NICU immediatly and spent the following 2 weeks there.  I was taken to recovery where I continued to vomit, and then back to my room for the rest of the day.  My blood pressure was still so high they only finally allowed me to see her later that night when they wheeled my whole bed down to the NICU. 

    She was TINY - and I was so out of it (had to be on Mag Sulfate for 2 days after delivery).  She was still breathing on her own, but had help via CPAP.  Meg was dubbed as a "Feed & Grow"... meaning she only had to learn how to eat on her own and gain weight before they'd let her go home.  The down side of this is of course going home without a baby.  The silver lining to this is also going home without a baby.  Bedrest for 2+ months had taken it's toll.  2 weeks was a decent recovery time for myself and it was nice to spend each day next to her nursing and pumping and being her Mom.  It was also nice to get almost 2 solids weeks of sleeping through the night before she came home and put an immediate stop to almost ALL sleep :-) 

     About a week after she was born, I could fit into a pair of shoes - and a few days later my toes stopped feeling squishy.  I credit this to the gallons of milk I was producing each day - and to the wonderful people at Medela.  My cups runneth over and I believe I had over 100 8oz bags worth frozen by the time Meg came home.

     Life was good...  and little did I know - just really starting!